The Last Jedi: Where No One Had Gone Before

The Last Jedi went into uncharted territory. It scared the crap out of us. It broke the “rules”. It challenged our expectations and cliches. It was bold with the Force. It took our characters and tossed each of them into their worst-case-scenario. It showed broken heroes and villains.

Can I even venture to say?

The Last Jedi was the deepest main saga Star Wars movie to date.

It is not a perfect movie with zero flaws, nor do I say the most beloved. There is something magical about A New Hope. My personal favorite for a long time was The Empire Strikes Back (best time ever), and now TESB is tied with The Force Awakens in my affections.

The most basic piece of writing advice storytellers are given is this…

Find out what your character wants…and then do everything in your power to keep them from getting it.

Harsh, huh? And yet, it’s compelling.

Kylo Ren wants peace.

Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren feels thrown about by his life. He wants to finally feel he is in control of his destiny. The turmoil inside of him is eating it up. He believes he can reach this place of “peace” by resetting the game board and crowning himself king. Control everyone and everything…that’s the answer, right?

Rey wants a sense of belonging and identity.

Rey has felt abandoned her whole life. She’s been waiting for people to make her belong, to give her worth. Now she has this whole new can of worms called The Force and she wants someone older and wiser to guide her in it. Secretly she is hoping that Luke as her mentor can give her that sense of belonging and value.

Leia wants a legacy.

She’s been in this fight since the day of her birth. She has sacrificed everything. Her beloved husband is gone. Her son is now her enemy. Her brother is missing. Her people are few in number and on the run. Will there be anyone to take up the gauntlet and continue this all-important battle for freedom that has been her life’s work?

Poe wants his people to survive.

Poe has natural giftings as a leader. He’s brave, he’s kind, he’s insanely talented. He knows he can make a difference in this fight that he’s grown up in. He’ll give his last drop of blood to ensure that happens.

Finn wants the one person he loves most to be okay.

Finn has found one thing to fight for up to this point: Rey. She’s his primary object and sole focus. Rey has to have somewhere safe to return to.

Luke wants to die alone and bitter. He wants to punish himself for his failure.

At least…that’s what he thinks he wants.

Rose wants her sister’s sacrifice to count for something, and she’s sick of people dying.

She’s lost everything up to this point. She’s done with that.

Hux wants respect.

He gets treated like a buffoon…huh, wonder why that is?

Snoke wants…uh…he wants…control?

Yeah, ahem, Mr. Rian? You kinda left us hanging on that one. Hoping Abrams can fill in the gaps here, Snoke was too big a presence to just disappear from the story after one highly efficient lightsaber stroke.

Vice-Admiral Holdo wants her people to survive.

Huh, sound similar to anyone else we know? How about SHARING SOME INFO UP FRONT WITH YOUR PEOPLE ON THE SAME SIDE??? C’mon, Ellie!

Chewbacca wants a new friend.

*aggressive sobbing*

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BB8 wants to be a part of everything.

Our baby droid is really the only one who gets what he wants from start to finish and has an utterly fantastic time all the way through.

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It was like pulling teeth with pliers for every character to attempt to reach their goal in this movie. It was almost like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day made into a Star Wars film.

Somehow, if it could go wrong, it did go wrong…right until the very end.

Because here is the follow-up piece of writing advice to the one I mentioned previously.

The characters must prevail, and they come out having defeated the obstacle, lie, villain, etc, and have grown in the process.

Let’s start with the heroes. How did they end up?

Rey chose her identity apart from her past or any other person.

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She wanted a mentor. She wanted a dad. I get that. But people let you down, sometimes you cannot find what you want. What do you do then? You decide. “Who am I going to be regardless of what happens around me?” Rey decided, and she emerged as a shining beacon of new hope and the future for the Jedi.

Leia has a legacy.

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We see it in the mentorship she gives her surrogate son Poe. She trains him on how to become a leader that will last. We see it in the determination of new Rebel recruits such as Finn. We see it in the enduring fire of characters like Rose and Holdo. We see it in the gleam in Rey’s eyes as she rejects Kylo Ren’s offer of power and instead chooses freedom. Leia’s life work has not been in vain, the fight will continue.

Poe leads his people to survival.

Yes, there are like 7.5 of them, but…

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Poe was pushed far beyond his comfort zone, and he rose to the occasion. He’s already got incredible talent but in the end, he was going to lead his people to destruction if he did not learn the wisdom required to lead. He learned, and the future of the Rebels will now be secure.

Finn’s original goal was to make sure Rey was safe. He at first believes that to be his only mission. By the end, he chooses to join the Resistance for his own sake. This does not mean he loves Rey any less, it just means he has finally come into his own.

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And as a delightful bonus, because Finn chooses to stick with the Resistance despite the “loser” circumstances, he was right where he needed to be to reunite with the person who feels like home to him.

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Yes, a FinnRey post is totally in works. And no, I will not disclose how many times I have watched this hug. That’s none of your business.

Luke dies…but not the way he thought he wanted to. He instead dies in peace, a legend who has forever changed the galaxy. This is the fulfillment of the original goal he had as a youth who stared off into the sunsets and dreamed of adventures.

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It’s poetic, it’s epic. Luke dies, but he is not completing the shallow and self-piteous arc of his elder years. No, instead he completes the much deeper and meaningful arc that we began in A New Hope. We have come full circle. And in all honesty, can we actually say that this giant of the Force is actually gone?

Rose saves the people she loves, making her sister’s sacrifice and everything up to this point worth it.

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Rose is a simple and straightforward character, but she represents a new attitude for this fight. Surviving to fight another day is just as if not more valuable than sacrifice.  We’ve watched single to entire casts of beloved characters (*coughs* Rogue One) sacrifice themselves for the cause. FYI, I’m still hurting over Caleb Dume.

We admire and respect their sacrifice, and those deaths had their place. But winning is also about life, not just death. Rose represents life.

Ahem, yes, she saved the people she loves. Yeah, I saw that kiss too. That one, tiny little kiss that sent a whole crowd of people like sheep to the slaughter with the belief, “Well, I guess she’s with Finn now?” C’mon, guys, don’t be so gullible. If a single one-sided kiss was enough to seal the deal then half of you would be married to your little crush from kindergarten. More on that in the FinnRey post.

Vice-Admiral Holdo’s people survived. Barely. In spite of her. Really we all almost died but hey, she did that cool lightspeed thing! Plus, I have never seen purple hair look so chic.

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Holdo as a character, or rather, the idea and look of Holdo was utterly fascinating. She represented a larger group of people who like Leia, have fully committed themselves to this fight. Supposedly she’s another kind of Force-sensitive character who uses her abilities outside of the Jedi method.

I do not believe her character was done proper justice, she was fascinating in the creation, less effective in the execution. Her character was responsible for the biggest plot holes in the movie, and that’s a crying shame. Still…did I mention that awesome purple hair?

Chewbacca kept his new friend.

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We were amazed that he was willing to drop his new girl off to meet up with Ben Solo after how splendidly that went the last time, but Chewie is loyal to a fault. He obviously trusted that she could handle it. Chewie is one original character that we can rely on sticking around.

BB8 was a part of EVERYTHING.

Can this droid get any cuter?

Onto the villains.

DJ and Captain Phasma barely get an honorable mention. They got exactly what they signed up for.

DJ’s only purpose was to serve as a darker reflection of what Finn could have become, someone who is only in it for themselves. He was not useless, per se, but he was also not deep.

Phasma had the character arc of a yardstick. She served as a great few seconds of external conflict that made for some really hot Finn fight scenes. *golf clap*. Nice, but nothing to write home about.

Now for the REAL villains.

Hux is still a laughingstock.

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In true villain form, Hux was thwarted yet again at the moment that should have been his triumph. He’s a rather interesting figure to me, he’s both fanatically frightening and laughably ridiculous all at once. He’s both bold and cowardly. He’s just weak enough to be dangerous and I think Kylo Ren is wrong to underestimate him. Hux’s defeat in this movie is going to make him even more dangerous in Episode 9. 

Snoke is dead. So, there’s that.

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Unexpected, cool, and also disappointing? Snoke was too malevolent and overpowering to just be forgotten. We need more information on what his bigger picture was. At the same time, he’s dead, so any agenda he may have had is in pieces. Literally.

I saved the most intriguing for the last…Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo.

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Like the heroes of this movie, Kylo Ren gets exactly what he wants…control. And yet, he ends the movie more desperate and villainous than he began it. Why?

What Kylo/Ben actually wants deep down inside is peace. Peace cannot be gained through murder and control, that only creates more chaos. Kylo’s blazing path of bloodshed and fury have not given him what he thought they would. Instead, he is left angrier and emptier than before. He’s a classic case of trying to achieve what you want/need the wrong way. This approach always leaves you in a worse situation than you began.

The Last Jedi went deep on multiple characters. It took our oh-so-familiar Star Wars moments such as the Darth Vader redemption scene and added a new twist to them. What if Vader kills his master but then decides to take control for himself?

We ended this movie where our heroes had nothing more than a hunk-of-junk and a smile to their names, and yet they felt that they had won while their enemies were left licking their wounds. Why?

Not all victories begin physically, the battle between good and evil is a battle of mindsets, ideals, and endurance. Our Rebels are winning this war, and the First Order knows it.

The Resistance is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.

I truly value the previous main saga movies that have led us to this point, but Rian gave us a fresh perspective on an age-old battle. He highlighted characters outside of just “the big three” and somehow managed to leave us full of hope after a dreadful day. While there are glaring mistakes in this film, I am also amazed by all he accomplished.

Our heroes went through the fire and emerged as legends. Our villains went through the fire, some of them burned, and some of them now burn with a vengeance. The stage is set for an epic conclusion to this saga.

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More in-depth on aspects of this film coming soon!

Other articles you may like…

Avengers Endgame: Steve’s Past, Or His Future

Solo: A Star Wars Story

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

 

 

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How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

*Major Spoilers ahead*

Fellow Dragon Riders…that was utterly magnificent.

What a beautiful, beautiful story. The animation was breathtaking, the music reached my soul, and the characters. Our precious, beautiful, real characters.

I was shocked by how deep this beautiful story was.

The Hidden World somehow managed to teach us about the 2 sides of love. Letting go…and committing. 

Commitment…

Hiccup has chosen to commit to holding on to Toothless over and over again. He’s fought against his natural instincts, his culture, and even the death of his own father in order to stay true to his best friend. He changed his culture to make room for Toothless. And Toothless has returned the favor every time. He’s saved Hiccup from death and even reordered the entire dragon social structure (his culture) by challenging the alpha in order to protect his best friend.

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Letting Go…

When Toothless discovered the new love of his life, the Light Fury, Hiccup let him go for the evening to be with her, a first for them. The truth is, he did not know the full meaning of this choice. If he could see into the future he may not have been brave enough to let Toothless go. How true to life that is, sometimes we open the door for these massive and often upsetting life changes without even realizing what we are getting into. Hiccup was opening the door to let his best friend and ally go, but he did it because he loves him.

The Hidden World showed the need that arises sometimes to let those we love go in order to reach their full potential and thrive. But at the same time, with Hiccup and Astrid’s love story, it showed us the value and need to commit.

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Hiccup and Astrid have been an incredible pairing since their first flight together. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other beautifully. It’s clear that they make a mighty leadership team.

Up to this point, they have remained merely a boyfriend and girlfriend. And that was enough for the context of that time. But today is a new day.

Hiccup has been a chief for a year, and it’s clear that he’s still very green in this position. He’s doing his absolute best, but he’s literally flying by the seat of his pantsYet another new threat emerges, and Hiccup reacts. He must protect his own people, but he is also torn because he feels the need to protect the dragons as well.

Astrid is still operating as an encouraging and playful girlfriend. She’ll tease him, give him a good kiss, and then fly off into the sunset again. She supports him in public sometimes, but she does so sitting down. I am speaking literally, watch the movie again.

We aren’t ready for marriage.

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I love the role of the mentors in this movie. Gober is not always to be taken seriously, but his comments to Hiccup and Astrid about the need for them to commit to each other so that they may lead their people with strength are words of wisdom.

hiccup and his mother

Valka’s words of wisdom blew me away.

He thinks he has to lead alone just because his father did.

Valka looks to Astrid, who is still hanging back while she watches Hiccup in emotional agony, struggling with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Go, he’ll listen to you.

In the darling flashbacks with tiny Hiccup and his father, we see that there was more to Hiccup and Stoick’s relationship than just the dysfunction we were introduced into in the first film. Stoick was a kind and tender father who was doing his utmost to lead his people and make the world safe for his beloved son.

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And Stoick bore it alone. The scene of Hiccup walking down the stairs at night to find his mighty and strong father crying by the fire was so important.

Stoick did not have his queen. He did not have his better half, his light, his partner. He needed Valka. What might have happened if Valka had stayed? It’s possible she could have changed the culture before Hiccup ever had to. It’s possible Stoick and Hiccup may have never fallen out of understanding with each other. Stoick would likely even still be alive.

Valka knows all of this now. She now knows the weight and value of the position and place she gave up at Stoick’s side. She has the humility to accept her failure in that regard, but rather than sinking into the shame of that failure, she instead uses it to teach Astrid (the new generation) how to live better.

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Valka shows Astrid the value and honor of her position at Hiccup’s side. She makes Astrid aware that the need to commit fully to Hiccup isn’t just a future joy, it’s a necessity for Hiccup, for Astrid, and for the future of their people.

Hiccup cannot do this alone. And so Astrid takes up the challenge. She soothes his hurting heart, gives him encouragement, fights at his side, and puts everything that is overwhelming him into perspective. She shows him how to fly on his own two feet…thus replacing Toothless as the most important person in Hiccup’s world. 

toothless and light fury

There were so many mirrored moments from the first HTTYD movie in Hidden World. When Toothless has his first meeting of romance with the Light Fury, I was heavily reminded of the first scene where Toothless and Hiccup bonded.

Taming Toothless

This concept of discovering each other. Toothless regurgitates the fish that Hiccup brought him as a peace offering to share with his strange, two-legged friend. Toothless coaches Hiccup in what he wants him to do. Hiccup barely gets the fish down and then gives a large smile…that Toothless then attempts to copy.

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And my favorite, Hiccup draws his new friend. And Toothless copies.

In this scene, Hiccup teaches Toothless to be a personToothless is already deeply curious, intelligent, and noble. But the more time he spends as a part of Hiccup’s world the more person-like he is.

Enter, the Light Fury. She is beauty and grace itself, and she is all dragon.

Toothless has spent so much time with Hiccup that he is a bit lost on the traditional dance of the Furies and what he must do to impress his new lady love. He continues to look to his human friend for guidance, for just like Hiccup, Toothless has yet to learn to fly on his own.

Every scene with the Light Fury was so, instinctive. It was quiet, and yet it spoke volumes. This beautiful girl taught Toothless how to be a dragon again…and like Astrid for Hiccup, she replaces Hiccup as the most important person in Toothless’s life.

toothless and his queen

When Hiccup goes looking for his friend in the hidden world he finds Toothless seated as king of the dragons. He is comfortable, regal, at home. The look on Hiccup’s face is utter devastation. But it’s not just the crushing realization that he is going to have to lose his best friend, he is also overwhelmed with inadequacy.

He does not know how to be what his people need without Toothless. They have always relied on each other to fly. Toothless changed everything for him. Now he is beset on every front with enemies, questions, and problems, and his friend has found his place in the world apart from Hiccup.

Hiccup feels so small.

Whew. Did anyone else take that moment in the gut? This entire movie I was nodding my head. YES! Oh yes, I have felt this in my soul. I know what he feels.

The true conflict in this movie did not revolve around the villain, he merely put a face to a much bigger problem that brought the true struggle into the light. Hiccup and Toothless can no longer thrive together in the way they have up to this point. In order to truly grow, they must go their separate ways.

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Grimmel represented the problem that was going to continue to plague Hiccup and Toothless. Evil people coming after the dragons, and by extension, the Berkians. As chief of his people, Hiccup could not in good conscience keep endangering them. As alpha of the dragons, Toothless had to protect his people.

True leadership is not about control, it is more often about sacrifice and servanthood. Both Hiccup and Toothless had to give up being together as friends in order to do what was best for their own people, and for each other.

It hurt. It hurt a lot. The five-year-old child sitting 3 seats away from me in the theater was sobbing and I started tearing up on her behalf. I know, Baby. I KNOW! This hurts! This growing, changing, letting go, it hurts.

And yet…

Hiccup came into his own. His new partner, his lifelong partner, Astrid, stepped in beside him and gave him the courage to fly on his own. And he did. And he won.

hiccup flying on his own

Toothless and he fought together to save each other and their people. And then they said goodbye.

Another beautiful mirrored scene. When Hiccup awoke from the victory of his first battle where he and Toothless fought The Green Death, he was walking wounded. He was missing a leg. This represents his need for support. He almost falls to the ground when Toothless jumps in and holds him up. They have held each other up for years.

hiccup holding onto toothless

This time Hiccup is down a leg his new support steps in to hold him up, Astrid. She is his future.

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Oh the symbolism. I love it!

hiccup saying goodbye

It hurts, but it is also so beautiful. It is so real. This is what love does. Love commits, love lets go. Love commits to doing what is best for the other one, and sometimes that means letting go.

Hiccup let go. His people were safe. He marries the love of his life and you know they will lead their people into a glorious future. He becomes a father, a tender, loving father by the looks of it. And he never stops being Toothless’ friend. I so deeply enjoyed the intimate scene at the end where Hiccup and Astrid take their children to go meet the dragons. We end on all of our favorite people (and dragons) flying together in the future they all fought to win.

I ended this movie with hope and joy. Yes, there is sadness, but there is also joy. So much joy. What a gift. What a gift.

I hope you enjoyed this movie as much as I did. Even if it hurt, I hope your heart was ministered to as well. There is so much truth and life to be gleaned here. I feel very blessed.

And yes…there are dragons.

How to Train Your Dragon: What Hiccup and Toothless Mean to Me

Netflix: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Frozen II

Disney: Why Disney+ is a Good Thing

There have been mixed reactions since Disney announced their intention to create an exclusively Disney streaming service that will be available in 2019.

As more and more news has come out regarding the service, the conversation has heated up.

I’ve spent months thinking about the pros and cons of this service, how it is going to affect media in general. I have come to one conclusion…

…this Disney streaming service is a good good thing.

Here’s why.

Why Disney’s Streaming Service is Good for the Consumer

During a discussion on this very topic, someone brought up a very real point regarding the multitude of streaming options available. Yeah, I know I’ve felt like I am straddling so many different services it’s becoming obnoxious. The desire to find everything in one location (like shopping at Wal-Mart once rather than 5 different specialty grocery stores) is deeply appealing.

However…streaming services are not like grocery stores, they are more like the fast food of the visual storytelling world. They are fast and immediate.

I could spend fifteen minutes just listing the number of fast food options we have available in this country. Some are nationwide, like McDonalds, and some are more localized. Dear Folks, do give Braums a try if you are ever in the Lower Midwest.

That many options can be overwhelming, wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one?

Maybe. Would it be better? NOPE!

Ask any person in a one-stoplight town that has ONE McDonalds. They will give you a resounding NO.

nope kermit

 

One restaurant means the same food all the time. Occasionally there may be a new menu item added, but that’s rare. No guarantees on the quality of food or service, after all, there is no competition for our One Restaurant to force it to be its best in order to stay in business. Food, service, prices, bathroom cleanliness, our One Restaurant dictates these things because due to the law of scarcity, they can! They know we have nowhere else to go, they are our One Option if we want to eat out.

However, suppose we added five other restaurants to the mix? What happens?

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Now our One Restaurant is one of Many restaurants, we have other options, now they have to step up their game and compete, or go out of business.

Think about the deals we have available right now in fast food. Wendy’s 4 for 4. A McDonald’s $1, $2, and $3 menu. Taco Bell has a pretty dang tasty $1 menu. And on, and on, and on.

So much variety and constant change that is to our (the consumer)’s benefit.

Competition.

You may not have realized it, but I just described capitalism to you. Capitalism gets spread around the media like it’s a dirty word, and socialism is the “cool” thing that makes life better for everyone!

Wrong. Most people don’t actually understand capitalism or socialism. You love getting a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a toothbrush from Wal-Mart,  and a hand-knit wool hat from Etsy? Cool! Thank Capitalism!

Capitalism is not all about trampling everyone underfoot in a mad scramble for the top spot. Capitalism that is done right can create freedom, opportunity, options, and competing in a way that holds each business accountable. The ultimate judge and jury for said businesses? Us, the consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I really like options. Sure, if I decide to eat at Fazolis, I can’t eat at Taco Bell. We do eventually have to choose one thing or another. But that’s okay, I make the choices I want for my life. And I appreciate the ability to choose.

What does this have to do with Disney’s streaming service? Lemme tell ya…

…Disney just majorly upped the ante…and we as consumers are going to benefit.

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Netflix is gonna have to up their game. I know they are trying. Lost in Spacis a work of beautiful storytelling and art that I applaud from the highest mountain. They just signed a deal to create a Narnia series, another decision that I am incredibly excited about. Netflix has its claims to fame with Stranger Things, but that’s not gonna be enough anymore, and I am interested to see how Netflix decides to combat this new challenge.

Amazon is a fierce competitor. This online giant has more than just a streaming service in its empire, Amazon has a little bit of everything, and they are getting bigger by the day.

*Sidenote, just so that you can become aware, I am starting to suspect that Disney and Amazon are secretly working towards world domination, and one day this battle will come to a head. Choose wisely, Citizens, will you be a Prime Member or belong to the Micky Mouse Clubhouse? Sides must be chosen. Choose wisely.

We all know Disney is giving their streaming service the red-carpet treatment. They are intent upon taking every wish we have made upon a star and making it come true. And while I have a love/hate relationship with Disney, I have to honestly say, they usually deliver.

Yes, some of these streaming services/shows that exist are going to die. We are going to take some hits. Daredevil and it’s fellow Marvel shows are early casualties. I can understand why those shows will no longer be continuing from a business perspective, but I can also understand the grief from fans. I’m sorry you feel disappointed, folks. I know how that feels. *coughs, AGENT CARTER! 

In the end, however, we as consumers will reap the benefits. Every streaming service with its own content is going to have to do their absolute best to compete with Disney, which means better content with higher quality.

Now, onto the really fun part.

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Why Disney’s Streaming Service Is Good for the Fan

Loki.

Scarlet Witch and The Vision.

The Mandalorian.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Live Action Lady and the Tramp.

CASSIAN ANDOR!

 

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I am looking at a whole new world right now, ladies and gentlemen. A world made possible by streaming services.

I am never going to stop going to the movie theater to enjoy movies on the big screen. I do not go to the theater because it is convenient, no, I go because I value the experience so highly. Millions of other movie fans do as well, therefore I have no fear that we will lose our movie theaters into the black hole of streaming services.

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Putting a movie into the theaters is more complicated than you may realize, however. It costs tons of money, and you have to not just make that money back, you have to make a large profit for that movie to be considered a success. Next, you have Blu-ray and digital sales, and then your film ends up on streaming services.

It’s a tough world, which means that film studios really have to be choosy about what they put their time and money into for the theaters and television. Despite the number of amazing characters and stories that we as fans love and want to see told, we are only given a few at a time because they HAVE to be picky. Which means that large groups of minority fans are left disappointed.

Enter, the Disney Streaming Service.

loki looking bad

Loki Odinson has delighted viewers since 2011. He’s a complex character, one moment the villain, the next, an antihero? He’s fast, his motives blurry, his emotions unpredictable. But what is predictable is the love of his fans for this character. A large minority of Marvel fans have been begging for a Loki film for years, but in the grand scheme of the Marvel storyline and budget, it just hasn’t made sense. Until now…

Loki is getting his own miniseries. Given how complex his character is, a miniseries is a far better format for his story than a film would be. Miniseries have the option of telling a story more slowly and going into greater personal depth than movies do. It’s just the type of storytelling the god of mischief deserves.

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Scarlet Witch and The Vision are all about exploring what it means to be human. They are complex enough characters on their own, and together? Even more so. They have not been given the amount of time required to really dig deeply into the wealth their characters’ have to offer. Not to mention these characters are not big enough mainstream favorites for a full theater release to be profitable. But a miniseries? Perfect!

captain cassian andor

The moment I saw Captian Cassian Andor my brain was on fire (yes, the man is gorgeous). But what truly got me electrified was the story he represents. It’s the untold story of the darker side of the Rebellion. A dark, painful, morally complicated side. A whole realm of questions and potential we have never seen before. We had no time for side trips in Rogue One, it was such a beautiful and focused movie that was precisely what it should have been. But at the end, my heart didn’t just ache for what we had lost, my heart ached over the stories that had been briefly introduced that I felt we had lost. Stories that I was desperate to discover. And now, I can.

the mandalorian

The Mandalorian. I’ve watched 6 Seasons of Clone Wars and 4 Seasons of Star Wars Rebels. Mandalorians are the kinds of characters that take up all the oxygen in a room. They need to be explored. I love how Star Wars films/series have recently started exploring more characters beyond just the high profile heroes and villains. It’s a fascinating world, let us explore it more!

Falcon

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I am constantly saying that Sam Wilson never gets the credit or time he deserves. He’s just the greatest guy ever and I am so thrilled to finally get to see more of him. And we can all agree that there is a big question mark hanging over Bucky Barnes’ life. It’s about time.

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My other big hope for this streaming service is that we will have resurrected series/films. Star Wars fans fell off of their tauntauns when we discovered that our beloved Clone Wars series (which ended horribly) was being renewed for a proper send off. Dreams really do come true!

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My personal request is that shows like Agent Carter and Girl Meets World who ended FAR TOO SOON would be next up on the renewal docket. These shows had strong enough fanbases and quality storytelling to make said endeavors worthwhile. But we shall see.

Don’t you all understand? The possibilities available to us? The potential? We may actually get a National Treasure 3 out of this service! It would flop in theaters but on the service?

And the best part yet, the monthly cost for this magical service is supposed to be less than Netflix.

take my money

In conclusion, Disney is moving into the 21st Century with style. And we, the consumers and fans are going to reap the benefits.

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I can’t wait. How about you?

 

Disney Live-Action Remakes: Not Losing What We Have, But Becoming More of Who We Are

Since Disney began making their live-action remakes, there have been some rather disgruntled folks among us. Funny how something that to me says, “best day ever” is such a thing of negativity to others.

…but everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. This is a free country after all, and that needs to be the top thing we remember when in the discussion.

Still, it is my opinion, that the people who claim that Disney is ruining their childhood need to lighten up. 

And here’s why.

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A friend of mine expressed her opinion on the same subject. It’s an awesome blog post, please check it out if you are also a fan of these live-action remakes. And if you are not, maybe it will show you the perspective of someone on the other side.

Like my friend says in her blog post, I also did not grow up with this magical Disney childhood that so many other 90s kids did. I was not raised on princesses, Robin Hood, or Mickey Mouse.

I actually grew up on PBS, cowboy movies, animal/nature documentaries, and Veggie Tales.

But, I did watch The Jungle Book. That was MY Disney movie. Maybe that’s why I love jungles so much. And animals. I’m actually far fonder of the wild Disney movies like The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Tarzan. Don’t ask how many times I have seen Tarzan because I have lost count by now. I never tire of that movie and I would absolutely adore it if Disney would do a live-action, musical version of that film. It’s gorgeous.

As I said above, The Jungle Book was my Disney movie. My older brother and I used to dance around the house singing “The Bare Necessities”. Bagheera was my favorite. He is the unsung hero of that story, the panther who doesn’t get to be the “cool parent” but has kept Mowgli alive and loves him like his own child. It always seemed unfair to me as a kid that Bagheera was made to look like such a drag while Baloo got to play and get all the accolades. I’m pretty sure that’s where I fell in love with panthers and jaguars as well.

When I heard they were making a live-action The Jungle Book this was my reaction.

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Are you serious??? I GET TO RELIVE SUCH A PRECIOUS PART OF MY CHILDHOOD IN A WHOLE NEW WAY!!!

The Jungle Book

I took my baby sister to the movie for her 10th birthday.

We were utterly enthralled.

I expected it to be good, but I never expected to love it even more than the animated one! It was so rich, deep, and meaningful!

It took the story I had loved as a kid and made it human. 3-D. What was once a cardboard cutout was now a walking, breathing story!

I had never considered how tough it must have been for Mowgli to reconcile who and what he was when growing up with a family that was so different. I wonder if there are adopted children out there who were actually ministered to by watching this movie.

“Yes! Someone got it right! That’s how I have felt my whole life!”

Bagheera was so beautiful, his deep care and love for Mowgli were given a place of honor and respect. Baloo was perfectly obnoxious, just as he should be. Shere Khan was freakin’ terrifying! I did not see Akeeva’s death coming, but it scared me! I felt like we had crossed a line or something and I didn’t know who was going to buy it next!

The world was so rich. It was beautiful, layered, complex and yet straightforward. They created actual cultures for these animals that mingled with nature. King Louis was also terrifying. My mom instincts were kind of firing this entire movie as I watched this beautiful, brown-eyed boy (I’m a total succor for little boys with big brown eyes) battle for his life.

The music I had so loved in my childhood movie was woven in delicately to a story that had taken on so much more life. Mowgli as a character showed true growth, maturity, and bravery, and his growth changed the entire world around him.

It. Was. Glorious.

jungle book

It was my movie, but this was my movie 2.0.

*I actually love this one MORE than I love my animated one. I can be talked into watching this movie at the drop of a hat. You name it, and I’m there!

Which brings me to my point…

These live action remakes are not about stealing the joy and identity we had in our childhood, they are about taking it to the next level. We are NOT losing what we had, but rather becoming more of who we are!

When I was 5, I was me. I liked variety, art, playing pretend, and movies.

Guess what, at 22, I’m still me, I’m just a deeper me. I’ve got more layers, a larger story, more colors fill my past, more emotions, more experience. I love variety, art, playing pretend (in my imagination) and movies. I also love relationships, people, running my own business, the world, and history. I’m me, but me 2.0.

Don’t you see? These live-action films are not stealing something away, they are giving us a greater gift! We loved these movies in our childhoods because they ignited our imaginations, they gave us courage, life lessons, dreams, they taught us to wonder!

Oh, how the world needs more of those things! We need some of that magic, we need some of that courage, we need to remember how to wonder!

Maleficent showed us there are two sides to every story. It taught us about love in a new way.

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Cinderella showed me why Ella had such courage, and it showed me WHY Prince Charming was worthy of that title. I’m glad to know because I’m looking for my own Prince Charming, so that’s useful information. It also taught me about forgiveness. Whew, that’s deep!

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The Jungle Book is the struggle of a boy reconciling with an animals’ world. Where does he fit into it? How does he become a man without destroying what he loves? And so he actually becomes a man! 

Beauty and The Beast. Why is Belle so different? Does she ever feel different? What is the town’s problem with her? Why did some enchantress sic a curse on a kid? How are the servants so dadgum cheerful all the time when their impending doom is upon them? The truth is, yeah, Belle IS different and she really feels it. She’s lonely. She’s aching over a mother she never knew. The Beast was a grown man who was capable of making better decisions, so, that’s a relief. The truth is the servants have beautifully hopeful hearts, but there is grief, oh! Such deep, deep grief over what they have lost and what they stand to lose.

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Beauty and The Beast gave me the gift of grief, which made the discovery of joy that much more beautiful.

What a gift. What a gift. To be reminded of who we are, but also to be given more. We are older now, hopefully, wiser, and we have room for even bigger lessons to fit into our hearts.

I have yet to see Christopher Robin, but as a child who grew up on Winnie the Pooh I know I’m going to love it. The gift Pooh and his friends gave us was the gift of valuing the things and people that really matter. The little things, the simple, extraordinary, earth-moving things. And Pooh gave us the gift of wonder.

winnie the pooh

Dumbo is going to be beautiful. It’s going to teach us to fight for what we love. To see value in people that others have cast aside.

Aladdin is going to thrill my soul. It’s going to show the struggle of a boy who has been nothing his whole life rising to the occasion to build a life for himself and for a woman he loves and cherishes. It’s going to show a young woman who is in a strategic place of influence but is also trapped by tradition and expectations, and she has to navigate the situation in a way that takes care of everyone she is responsible for.

I teared up when I saw The Lion King trailer. That story is timeless and applicable to everyone. Our place and purpose in this world matters. We cannot let evil drive us away from that.

Mulan is going to be a dramatic story about a woman fighting a life and death struggle for her nation, and doing it with a threat of death hanging over her own head. Talk about inspiring!

My friends, my dear friends. Unclench your hands, and open your hearts!

It’s fine if you want to love the animated ones more. This is a free country, you can like and dislike what you want. I may see one of these live-action films someday and think, “Nope, that wasn’t my cup of tea.” I am not making a law for myself that I MUST love each one of these stories more than the original.

But consider what is being presented to us. Consider the fact that Disney GAVE us these stories in the first place, they know how precious they are to their fans.

So enjoy your animated movies, enjoy the heck out of them! Share them with your kids, build precious memories! But don’t walk around feeling robbed and angry, embrace the time we are in now!

That is my opinion. Disney is giving us more than just the bare necessities, they are giving us a whole new world.

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Disney Live Action: Treasure Planet

Netflix: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

A story doesn’t have to be complicated to be profound.

The best ingredients for a deep, rich story are these: real people, honesty, love, healing, and an understanding of the purpose and potential of stories in general.

Netflix’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society combines all of the above to create a warm and beautiful story full of truth and healing.

……….

Based on a book of the same title, the movie stars Lily James as Juliet Ashton, a lovely young British writer in post-WWII England. She’s beautiful, talented, sought after by a wealthy American, and enjoying the beginning fruits of a long future as a successful author.

And she’s lost.

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It’s England, 1946. The war is over. People are breathing again. Repairing and painting their homes. Dancing. Starting businesses and families. The war is over…outwardly anyway.

But Juliet still feels the choking dust of the London Blitz. Of the millions dead or missing. Of the years of lack. Of her own trauma and loneliness that she has bottled up inside.

“Do you ever feel like we’ve emerged from a long black tunnel into a carnival?” Juliet Ashton

Juliet is reeling from the experiences of the past years, including losing her parents. She feels overwhelmed with the new joy as she is still holding too much sadness and torment to have room for anything else. She feels guilty for this feeling, which only adds to her sense of being displaced…until…

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Enter, Dawsey Adams, writing from the island of Guernsey, a tiny British island located in the English Channel between England and France. An island that experienced German occupation and all the horrors that accompanied it during the war.

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Dawsey Adams, a gentle farmer, writes Juliet with a very simple request. He asks her for a book. He came across an old book that previously belonged to her, the information he discovered when he found her name and former address in the front of the book. This letter begins a fascinating correspondence in which Dawsey tells Juliet about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club society begun by a few Guernsey residents in order to cover up a roast pig from the Germans.

Intrigued? So is Juliet. So intrigued in fact that after corresponding for a time, she makes the journey to Guernsey herself to meet this group of people and hear their full story.

……….

I am not a fan of many of the works Netflix has put out. While I applaud series like Lost in SpaceLost and Found, Dragons: Race to the Edge, Greenhouse Academy, there is still so much garbage that Netflix has created. Trashy comedies that mock beautiful people and things, action movies that could be intriguing except…86 f-bombs, really, Netflix? That’s enough to make a sailor blush!

13 Reasons Why has caused damage to the world. The Michelle Wolf special was a fiasco for everyone concerned. Anne With An E lacks understanding and proper respect for the purpose and classic story of Anne of Green Gables.

Netflix is not my hero by any stretch of the imagination. But I loved The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. 

It’s masterful storytelling. You glide back and forth between the present and the past, discovering the true story of the Society as Juliet does. It’s a mystery unveiled only a piece at a time, but you are always dying to know more. As Juliet discovers this story and these people, she begins to unravel the deep well of grief and feeling in her own heart, and she begins to heal.

For years Juliet has been creating this well inside of herself. It’s dark and deep, so empty and full of echoes. And she can’t seem to reach it, can’t seem to fully comprehend it. She cannot grasp what she wants, or what she needs. She cannot enter into rest. She cannot find a place to call home. She cannot dream about her future, all she can do is react.

The members of the Society have grieved as well. They are still grieving, but you recognize a marked difference in their grief versus the grief of those around them, including Juliet. And I’ll tell you what this difference is.

They are not grieving alone, but rather they are sharing the hurt as it comes and celebrating and creating joy even in the midst of it.

There is a life to the members of the Society that draws Juliet in like the tide. She’s been alone for so long, but no longer. As soon as she begins to know these people, she begins to unravel everything inside of her. She begins to laugh, truly laugh. She can see the world. She has a fire burning inside of her. She cries, she cries so much. She hurts, she hurts so much. But at least she is feeling something. And so, the healing begins. Why? Because she is no longer hurting alone.

What brought all of these people together? A story. A made-up story to cover up an innocent get-together that is criminalized by a cruel world. And that made-up story turned into a deeper story. It intertwined several people’s lives as they began to share in a love for stories, and it gave them a place to belong. People to stand with. Shoulders to help bear their burdens. Hearts to laugh with. And a future to share. And they became a story so deep, so compelling, they drew in yet another soul (Juliet) out of the cold and gave her a place to begin the healing.

This story shows people as people like us. People who are hurting from pain and grief no human beings should ever have to bear. The things they have seen and had done to them are WRONG, and you feel the wrongness of it clearly, you cry out with the characters at all they have endured. It also shows the purpose and joy of stories, their power to heal and to connect. It shows how simply sharing your life with people can bring so much joy in the midst of suffering. It shows people giving each other grace despite their flaws. It shows people who see beyond the outer shell to the heart within. It shows what true love can build and the redemption it carries.

And this story gives us permission to grieve over the things that have hurt us. And it gives us permission to let that happen in as much time as we need. And it beckons us to find a people, a tribe to share our griefs and our joys with.

Real stories flow, they are not in separate boxes or segments. One part is deeply connected to another. Grief and joy can be but a word or sentence apart. Healing happens in the midst of the feeling. And sharing your story with others can make all the difference.

potato peel pie

That is what Juliet Ashton discovers. And as Juliet discovers it, so do we.

……….

My friends, I don’t understand everything in this world, but these are the few things I know for sure.

God is real, more real than I ever imagined. He is good, better than any of us have ever comprehended. Tragedy and grief are all around us in this fallen world, and it breaks my heart just as it breaks God’s. God is love, and love conquers all.

Joy and grief are not mutually exclusive. Healing takes time. We are in each other’s lives for a reason. And none of us was made to be alone, but rather to share life together.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society touched me like a warm summer breeze drifting off of the sea. And as I saw this movie, I got to heal a tiny bit because I felt understood.

Friend, your story matters. You matter. And I want you to share your story with the world. I want you to allow yourself to feel, the grief and the joy.

Perhaps in the midst of it you will even decide that you should have a roast pig and begin a book club.

literary society

 

Star Wars: Every Story in the Galaxy

Back in the 1970s a creative guy named George Lucas made a little movie called Star Wars.

No one expected it to be a big thing. Sir Alec Guinness (who played the original Obi-Wan Kenobi) acted in the film because he’d always wanted to be a “children’s movie”. 

At best, they thought they might make a sci-fi cult classic that would gather a small but fierce following who met in basements and had mini-conventions. That was all they expected.

This is what happened instead…

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The world exploded, and we have never been the same since.

Why is Star Wars so popular? I had a friend of mine ask me a question along these lines recently. She’s an adult with grown children, and not super into many movies. But she loves Star Wars. “What is different about Star Wars?” she asked.

I could list hundreds of reasons why Star Wars is all that and a bag of credits, but we don’t have time for all of that today. Instead, I’m going to list the biggest reason I think Star Wars has resonated so deeply with millions of people internationally for generations.

Star Wars tells us every classic, cliche story we’ve ever heard, but they do it in an unforgettable way.

Star Wars is one of the most cliche-ridden sagas ever. We started our journey with a young hero possessing a unique “ability”, the old sage mentor, a rogue with a big heart, a princess, and a cute animal (or droid) sidekicks.

Original trio

They joined forces with the underdog (the Rebellion) and go up against Goliath (Darth Vader and the Empire). The hero uses his unique abilities at just the right moment to destroy the story’s greatest threat against all odds.

It’s not the first time this story has been told. Star Wars borrows from many classic stories, established religions, and other known influences. And yet, the world exploded.

See, we “complain” about cliches, stereotypes, and classics. But there is a reason those things became so well known. It’s because they are real, and we experience them on a regular basis.

Star Wars tells us all of the old stories. An underdog story.

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A redemption story.

Luke and His father

People bravely fighting against all odds for a better future.

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Questions about free will.

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Darkness vs the light. Free will vs destiny.

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The danger of allowing your emotions to be manipulated.

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Mentorship. Family. Friendship. Growing up with grace in times of hardship.

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Choosing to not give into victimhood, but instead to stand on your own feet.

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Making the hard choices. Becoming a part of something bigger than yourself.

Han Solo

Stormtrooper Finn

Learning what true leadership is.

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And on, and on, and on.

And these classic stories are told in the most exciting and colorful way. With spaceships, planets, aliens, blasters, lightsabers, dark and light, good and bad. They are told with heart, with humor, with a connected history, a force that binds all of these stories together. With characters that feel like old friends.

Star Wars tells our stories.

I love our galaxy. I love the characters, the history, the messages, the hope. The fact that by now generations of families have all gotten to enjoy the same world and story as it is continually told. I love it all.

Happy May the 4th, may the force be with you!

Real Women: Jyn Erso (Rogue One)

6 Ways that StarWars: Rebels Differs From StarWars: The Clone Wars

 

Lost In Space: Storytelling Done Right

Is anyone else kind of obsessed with Netflix’ remake of the old 1960’s sci-fi show Lost in Space? *warning, slight spoilers ahead*

I didn’t know much about the show until I saw a preview at the movie theater. It looked shockingly interesting. As soon as I saw the first episode I was hooked. Lost in Space is one of the best TV shows I have come across in a long time, and I’ll tell you why.

Lost in Space is visually gorgeous, both the sets and the CGI are amazing. It nails the science/fiction part every single time. It has intrigue. A shadowy timeline. A colorful world. There is so much material for new plot threads that I am confident this show has a long and prosperous future ahead of it.

But none of the reasons I listed above are the core of why Lost in Space is such a phenomenal show. There’s another, more encompassing reason.

Lost in Space is storytelling done RIGHT!

The opening sequence of the pilot episode drops us into action almost immediately. We see the Robinson family seated around their “table” playing a game of Go-Fish. Sounds normal, right?

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Actually, no. The normalcy of a casual family game night is starkly contrasted by the fact that the family is wearing space suits and strapped to their seats in a ship that appears to be plummeting out of orbit onto some unknown planet’s surface.

How did they get there? Why is their ship crashing? Are they the only people in this corner of the galaxy? Is this just normal and terrifying landing procedure?

These immediate questions are grounded with a few layers of underlying tension that we are immediately shown between the characters. John Robinson is at odds with his children, especially his strong eldest daughter Judy. His wife Maureen is calm and collected, but there is a coolness in her manner towards him. Clearly, there is something going on in this family, but what is it?

We don’t have time for answers, because our ship is crashing, straight into an iceberg and cold, icy waters! The family makes it out into an ice cave, but their equipment is still inside their submerged ship and they are going to need extra help to survive the cold night.

lost in space ice cave

More family tension. The youngest Will (I adore this child) is the only one small enough to fit into the jammed hatch at the top of the ship. But he’s afraid, never fear! Brave big sister Judy is here! Judy plunges into the waters against her father John’s commands (again, what happened to this family) and attempts to retrieve equipment herself. Problem is, she is unable to get out of the icy water before it freezes over, trapping her in the thick ice just inches from the surface.

*cue panic attack* Claustrophobes know what I mean right here.

Maureen has a severely damaged leg, but her brilliant mind is still trying to work on behalf of her family. Still, her usefulness is compromised. Judy is trapped in the ice with several hours of air left in her suit, no amount of spunk or gumption is going to get her out of this mess. John is trying to keep himself to together while he attempts to free Judy, but he feels like he’s failing yet again. Will feels guilty that his beloved older sister is trapped because of his “weakness”, something you get the inkling he believes about himself a lot. Penny exhibits much of the lost behavior that is often attributed to middle children, she’s falling through the cracks yet again and doesn’t know how to contribute.

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This is a brilliant setup. Want to know why?

The best stories in any genre are always character driven. 

In just a few short moments, we already know important details about the Robinson family, the people who are the heart and soul of this show. We are given hints of their strengths, but we are more clearly shown their weaknesses in this beginning. We see how these weaknesses are not only affecting them as individuals but especially as a unit. We are put right there in their shoes, we feel their panic, their anger, their confusion. We feel the weight of every problem facing them right now, and at the same time, we have so many questions.

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This is how you tell a story without using the infamous “info dump” that so many storytellers make the mistake of using. An audience doesn’t need every detail to fall in love with a character and their story, they just need the right details and they are hooked. We were shown the heart of Lost in Space immediately as we are introduced to the Robinsons’ humanity and immediately given a chance to root for their success.

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I am pleased to say Lost in Space follows this pattern for the entire series. We are never given an information dump, we have to fight for the reveal of every piece of info we ever get, but we still don’t feel cheated in the waiting for those reveals.

Lost in Space strikes the perfect balance between the past and the present. We spend most of our time in the present, our immediate problems. Unknown robots. Fuel-eating eels. Mysterious characters who hide their true colors. Strange beasts. And above all, a need to get back on track.

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Much like real life, the Robinsons and all other characters have to stay in the moment, even as pieces of the past are revealed, and old wounds are dealt with.

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We already know that we are rooting for these Robinsons. We can’t help it. Not only are they our heroes, but we understand them on a human level. John aches over the time he missed with his family but really feels at a loss for how to repair that damage. Maureen is a red-headed Wonder Woman, is there anything she cannot do? But she’s lacking, there is something missing. Judy doesn’t know how to let herself fall apart, but she also knows she’s not fine. Penny is taking it one day at a time, but she still feels lost. Will wonders if he will ever be more than a failure and a weakling.

Other characters throw in unique problems and questions. Dr. Smith still blows my mind, I never know what to expect next. I have never seen a character quite like her, and she scares me more than 85% of the villains on screen.

 

 

 

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Don West’s I-couldn’t-care-less facade is quickly derailed by his adorable acts of compassion. He grows more endearing by the episode, and I am a huge fan of his precious chicken Debbie.

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Among all of these questions, theories, hidden histories, and secrets, one thing is starkly clear to us. This family needs to fix the fault lines within their circle. They need each other to survive. We can see who they are, how much they love each other, and how powerful they are as a unit, therefore we root for unity to be restored.

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Season 1 ended perfectly. We saw the Robinsons overcome, and reunite, and we saw the power of that newfound strength and unity.

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Maureen is smart and powerful, but she is even better when she has other strong people like her husband John at her side. John has failed to be there for his family in the past, but he’s here now and he’s never leaving again. Judy learns that it is not a weakness to be human, to not be okay sometimes, and her experiences simply feed into her already fierce compassion. Penny is not falling through the cracks, she’s a glue that holds her family together. She has a place and a purpose. And Will, sweet, kind Will learns what we have seen since the very beginning, Will is incredibly brave.

As this family repairs itself, they make a difference not just for themselves, but for those around them. Every other character is delivered because the Robinsons are together again. We started this story seeing the Robinsons’ greatest weaknesses and broken places, and we end Season 1 seeing them thriving with their combined strengths.

Robinsons stick together.

Season 1 was tough for this family. They barely hung on, but in the end, they stuck together and it changed the story for everyone. Considering that cliffhanger we were left on, this united front is going to be vital for the family’s survival going into Season 2. They are up against some terrifying unknowns, but so long as they stick together, they are going to be okay.

The writers of Lost in Space made sure that no matter where this story takes us, we would have one solid thread, the Robinson family. They are our core, our heartbeat, our purpose. We are rooting for them all the way, and no matter what colorful, frightening, or bizarre events they face in future seasons, we know we can always count on one thing….

….Robinsons stick together.

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That’s storytelling done right, my friends. Now, who else is ready for a Season 2?

Lost in Space Season 1 is Currently Streaming on NetflixIf you want a cleaner version for your family, Lost in Space is also available for filtered streaming on Vid-Angel